The man who helped turn the tide in the fight against HIV/AIDs in the 1990s now has his sights set on coronavirus. Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Bloomberg Lawthat a coronavirus vaccine is in the works and the first human trials might start in 3 months.
“The bad news is that it happened,” Fauci told Bloomberg Lawof the current crisis surrounding coronavirus. The World Health Organization ruled today that the Wuhan China coronavirus (as some in the media have labelled it) is not yet a global health threat, but it could soon be. “The good news is that we have considerable experience with coronaviruses. Everything we’ve learned with working with coronaviruses, with SARS and MERS, are helping us very rapidly get a jump on things with regard to this new virus.”
The new respiratory virus, which emerged from Wuhan city in China at the end of last year, has killed at least 17 people and infected about 300 more. Earlier this week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)confirmedthat the virus landed in the United States. That patient, in Washington state, had visited Wuhan. There have been other outbreaks in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.
At a press briefingTuesday, Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said that “NIH has always been very active in this area [investigating a coronavirus vaccine] and there is early work and early conversations.”
However, Messonnier did not underplay the challenge of creating such a vaccine. “As you know, the development of a vaccine is a complex process,” she said. “It’s not something that’s going to be available tomorrow. But there are active conversations about vaccines as well as therapeutics.”
In the meantime, hospitals and infection control professionals should take the customary precautions, as happened in the case of the Washington state patient who is now doing well.
“It’s actually important to clarify that the precautions for this patient are standard isolation precautions,” said Messonnier. “This is something many hospitals know how to do and we’re grateful that in this region in Washington State they were quite prepared for this contingency. So this is not a situation like the Dallas [Ebola] one. This is something where most hospitals in the region should have a hospital that can utilize these kinds of precautions.”
She added that “a hugely important issue” is that healthcare workers stay safe. “The health of our healthcare workers is very important to all of us,” said Messonnier.